Pakistan Assasination Was Al-Qaida Behind Bhutto's Slaying?

Who killed Benazir Bhutto? Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was quick to blame Islamist terrorists and his interior minister claims to have proof that al-Qaida was behind it. The US, meanwhile, continues to investigate the al-Qaida claim.

Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto had made plenty of enemies. Was it al-Qaida that planned her assassination?

Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto had made plenty of enemies. Was it al-Qaida that planned her assassination?

It is clear that slain Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto did not want for enemies. While her supporters initial reaction to news of her assassination on Thursday had been to point the finger at President Pervez Musharraf, the president blamed Islamic militants for the attack. Now the Pakistani Interior Ministry says it has evidence that al-Qaida and the Taliban were involved.

Al-Qaida was already reported to have claimed responsibility for killing the veteran politician who had twice been prime minister and was hoping to serve a third term following elections on Jan. 8. Pakistani broadcaster ARY TV reported that the terror network had said it had carried out the gun and bomb attack that killed Bhutto and at least 16 others.

On Friday Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz told the Associated Press that the radical Islamists were behind the assassination. "We have evidence that al-Qaida and Taliban were behind the suicide attack on Benazir Bhutto," he told the news agency. He said investigators had resolved the "whole mystery," behind the assassination and would give details at a press conference later on Friday.

The Pakistan Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Chemma had already laid the groundwork for the announcement earlier in the day. He said that al-Qaida had had Bhutto in its sights and that it was likely the radical Islamist group had played a role in the attack. "Benazir had been on the hit list of al-Qaida," he told Agence France Presse. "Now there is every possibility that al-Qaida is behind this tragic attack to undermine the security of Pakistan."

Meanwhile, intelligence agencies in the United States are reviewing the purported al-Qaida claim. On Thursday FBI and Homeland Security officials sent a bulletin to US law enforcement agencies citing Islamist Web sites saying the group was claiming responsibility and that al-Qaida's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri had planned it. Now the intelligence community is scrambling to determine who in fact was behind Bhutto's assassination.

The US Director of National Intelligence Ross Feinstein insisted that it would be premature to point the finger definitively at al-Qaida. "We're in no position right now to confirm who may have been responsible for the attack," he told the Associated Press. And FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the bureau was assessing the al-Qaida claims but said that their validity was "undetermined."



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